ICE-OUT BASS IN NORTHERN RIVERS
Most northern river systems feature both large mouth and small mouth bass, and the Upper Mississippi is no exception. The ice out period offers great opportunities for both, but each species acts a little differently when spring finally rolls around.
In addition to warming water, the ice out period brings with it increased water levels, as the system swells with melt water from upstream. For ice out large mouth, the key is to follow the rise of the river.
Large mouth predominantly winter in backwater lakes and sloughs, & Once the ice is off, the water will start coming up and that will push them up with it. Target the backs of sloughs in the dead reeds and pads from the previous year, in flooded timber up against steep banks, and anywhere they can get out of the current.”
In years with serious floods, the waters may get high enough to make the bass almost inaccessible.
SMALL MOUTH: FIND THE CURRENT
Although the rising level of the river also affects river small mouth at ice out, the effect is secondary in that it will change the specific locations they hold, not what they’re looking for. That’s because the dominant factor in ice out small mouth location is current.
“Small mouth in river systems are going to relate to current 99 percent of the year, and the ice out period is no different, the only thing that changes is how they relate to it. In the ice out period, the water is still too cold for them to be right in the current, so they will be sitting right on the edge.”
Places like rock points, wing dams, big lay downs and channel markers all offer the type of current break that ice out river small mouth need, while still being close to current so they can dart out and ambush any bait fish the current brings by.
JIGS AND MORE JIGS
Although ice out large mouth and small mouth may hang in different locations, they are both susceptible to a jig, a hall-of-fame weapon for cold water bass.
Jigs could be the number one presentation for catching ice out bass of both species. They are versatile enough that you can fish them in 1 foot of water just as easily as 10 feet. You can also fish them effectively at a slow and deliberate pace, which is necessary when the water is still cold.”
The predominant forage item for ice out bass is craw fish, and because of that jigs in browns, green pumpkin, and orange should be primary color choices.
As a suggest, use either a 1/4 or 3/8-ounce hand-poured casting jig, on a 7-foot, medium-power Lew’s Speed Stick paired to a 6.4:1 Lew’s BB-1 reel spooled with 15-pound Sugoi fluorocarbon.
Whether you’re flipping a jig to large mouth in the bushes or dragging for small mouth on rocky points, the period immediately after the ice comes off a river can be some of the best fishing of the year. The bass are trying to recover after a long winter, and have no choice but to feed.
There’s nothing like the thump of a big bass to warm you up on a cold, crisp spring morning.